Guide to Spousal Support in Illinois

Whether you're thinking about divorce in Illinois or are in the midst of one, understanding the intricacies of spousal support is critical. Let’s take a look at how it works, how the amount is determined, how long it lasts, and more.

How does spousal maintenance work in Illinois?

In Illinois, spousal maintenance, sometimes referred to as alimony or spousal support, is an obligation that may be imposed on one spouse. If awarded, the purpose is to help make sure both people can maintain the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage.

Not all divorces result in spousal maintenance; it's awarded based on a series of factors and a specific formula set by Illinois law.

Who qualifies for maintenance in Illinois

Qualifying for spousal maintenance in Illinois primarily depends on whether one person needs financial support and the other has the ability to pay. The court considers multiple factors when assessing the situation: each party's income, property, needs, present and future earning capacity, the duration of the marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, and more.

Types of maintenance in Illinois

There are two main types of spousal maintenance in Illinois: temporary and permanent maintenance.

Temporary maintenance

Temporary spousal support in Illinois, also known as "pendente lite" maintenance, is awarded to a spouse requiring financial assistance during the divorce process. It's designed to cover living costs and expenses when the spouses live separately during divorce and possibly for a set amount of time post-divorce.

Permanent maintenance

Permanent maintenance is awarded once the divorce is finalized and is typically paid on an ongoing basis, usually monthly. The duration of these payments largely depends on the length of the marriage. For example, if a marriage lasted five years or less, alimony might last for 20% of the marriage length.

Mediation as an alternative to court intervention

Mediation provides an alternative means of determining the amount of a spousal support award without court intervention. In mediation, both parties, with the help of a mediator, openly discuss and negotiate the terms of the spousal maintenance. This option promotes cooperation and may result in a more satisfactory outcome for both parties.

Suggested: How to Prepare for Mediation

How the court determines an amount

In Illinois, the determination of spousal maintenance is guided by specific statutory formulae and a series of factors to ensure fairness and adequacy while taking into consideration the financial resources and needs of the spouses.

Two main steps are involved. First, the court decides whether a maintenance award is appropriate. Then, if so, it calculates the amount and duration of the maintenance. 

To estimate a spousal maintenance amount, use this online calculator.

Before applying any formula, the court determines whether maintenance is appropriate. They do this by looking at a range of factors:

  • How much property and money each person has, including marital property
  • Each person’s needs
  • Each person’s current and future earning capacity
  • The time needed for the payee to receive education, training, or employment
  • The standard of living enjoyed by both during the marriage.
  • The period of time the marriage lasted
  • Each person’s age and condition

How long will spousal support last?

In Illinois, the duration of spousal support is based on the length of the marriage, among other things. The state provides a guideline that ties the length of the support to the duration of the union. For instance, if the marriage lasted less than five years, a receiving spouse might get support for 20% of that length of time.

Permanent maintenance, often granted in long-term marriages, may last an indefinite term or be equal to the length of the marriage – if it lasted 20 years or more. However, it's important to note that "permanent" in this case doesn't mean forever. Permanent spousal support in Illinois can be modified or terminated based on significant changes in circumstances.

How to pay spousal maintenance in Illinois

A judge determines how spousal support payments in Illinois are to be made. If spousal maintenance and child support orders are made together, Illinois requires those payments first go to the state. The state agency then disburses money accordingly. 

If only alimony is being paid, it's often paid directly from one spouse to the other.

How to modify spousal maintenance in Illinois

In Illinois, it is possible to modify a spousal maintenance order if there are significant changes in the financial circumstances of either person. To request a change, whether you're the payor or the payee, you'll need to file a petition that clearly states the reason for the change. A clear reason might be that the payor recently lost their job and now has less income with which to pay alimony.


Can spousal maintenance be waived in Illinois?

Yes, spousal maintenance can be waived in Illinois. Both parties must agree to the waiver, and it must be included in the marital settlement agreement. 

Once waived, a spouse cannot later ask for maintenance, even if their financial situation changes.

Is spousal maintenance in Illinois taxable?

As of January 1, 2019, spousal maintenance payments are no longer tax-deductible for the payor. Further, they are no longer considered taxable income for the recipient. This is due to changes in federal tax law.

Suggested: How to Talk to Your Ex-Spouse about Spousal and Child Support

At Hello Divorce, we’ve helped countless couples understand their state’s divorce laws and make it through their divorce proceedings. You can do this, and we can help. We invite you to schedule a free 15-minute call to speak with an account coordinator about your divorce case.

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.